The Vice-Chairman of China's Central Military Commission, General Fan Changlong, is continuing his five-day visit to the United States. The general is in the process of making a number of important stops around the country.
So far, General Fan has visited three U.S. military bases in California and Texas, and also toured an American naval supercarrier -- the USS Reagan. And on Wednesday, he quote "observed soldiers" at Fort Hood, a base about two hundred kilometers from Dallas.
General Fan is a familar face to many in the U.S. military, and government. He's met with several of them over the years, most recently in Beijing in May. On Thursday, General Fan is due to arrive in Washington, where he'll meet with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. The two are expected to attend a signing ceremony at the Pentagon. And on Friday, General Fan will visit the National Defense University, where he's due to sign a U.S.-China Army-to-Army Dialogue Mechanisms. He's also expected to meet with officials from the White House and State Department. Representatives from both countries told me they welcomed the visit.
"Mil to mil relations is a very important aspect of the overall relationship between China and the United States. It will serve to enhance the mutual trust between not only the two military tease but also our two countries," said Wu Xi, deputy chief of mission of Chinese Embassy in the U.S.
"Wherever we can make an improvement in the relations between Beijing and Washington, we will do that. And this is a good thing. It's a good thing, yeah. We want to make sure we have many more visits," said Mark Kirk, U.S. senator.
But recent tensions between Beijing and Washington over Chinese activities in the South China Sea threaten to cast a shadow over the talks. The U.S. says it is concerned over any movement aimed at changing the status quo in the waters. China insists the sea is part of its sovereign territory, and its activities there fall within Chinese jurisdiction.
That issue aside, both China and the U.S. say the visit will also lay more groundwork for two important upcoming events: a high-level diplomatic exchange later this month, and a visit to the U.S. by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping in September.